The Right hate feminists because we want freedom. Here’s how to fight back
Bolsonaro is attacking women’s rights. But Francia Márquez’s election in Colombia shows us victory is possible
The authoritarian playbook the world over is scarily similar. Chip away at personal freedom. Reject pluralism in all forms. Restrict the rights of women and LGBTQI people. Defend “traditional family values”.
As Brazil’s October 2022 presidential election looms closer, far-right Jair Bolsonaro is once again rallying the growing evangelical Christian population who voted en masse for him in 2018. He is attacking abortion rights recently gained in neighboring Colombia and Argentina, and promising Brazil will not follow the same path.
For the first time, his campaign is relying on his wife’s public interventions. To mark Mother’s Day a few weeks ago, she claimed that: “Being a mom is a full-time job... the most divine responsibility of all.”
This is the playbook that Trump deployed when he took office, and the ramifications are still being felt today.
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In 2017, the US delegation to the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) – the United Nations’ key annual meeting for advancing women’s rights – included Lisa Correnti, executive vice president of the Center for Family & Human Rights (C-FAM).
C-FAM is an anti-LGBTQ hate group that works with allies around the world to limit and restrict human rights and freedom. Groups like C-Fam have for years been lobbying the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade.
The world that the far Right and authoritarians want is very different from the one that feminist social justice movements seek to create.
We want a world that recognises the richness that diversity brings. We want a world where people are free to love who they desire. We want an equitable economy in which everyone thrives and lives in dignity. And we want a world that centers the leadership of historically marginalized people – Black, Indigenous and other people of color, especially women and LGBTQ+ people.
This is why authoritarians and the far Right target feminist movements. We want more freedom, more justice, more choice. They, on the contrary, seek adherence to a central, all-powerful authority. And in recent years, the far Right and authoritarians have made significant gains because they are so well funded.
The Global Philanthropy Project estimates that US-based organizations that oppose women’s, LGBTQ and children’s rights had an aggregate revenue of more than $6bn from 2008 to 2017. The Susan B Anthony List, a leading US anti-abortion group, has a 2022 political budget of $72m and secured $20m in new financial pledges when it became clear that the Supreme Court was likely to endorse new restrictions on abortion rights.
On the other hand, feminist social justice movements, especially those led by Black Indigenous and other women of color, are severely underfunded. Less than 1% of philanthropic dollars goes to girls and women, according to a study by the global feminist organisation AWID.
Research by the Black Feminist Fund shows that even less funding – between 0.1% and 0.35% of foundation funding – goes to Black feminist movements. Yet even in this chronic state of underfunding, feminist movements have been responsible for some of the most dynamic progressive social change across the globe.
The NiUnaMenos (Not One Woman Less), movement that began in Argentina in 2015, led to the Green Wave – a reference to the green scarves its supporters wear – which resulted in the legalization of abortion in the country in 2021. The work that grassroots women did to bring about peace in Liberia after years of civil war was documented in a film by Abigail Disney.
Feminists have long advocated for political representation in all spheres of public life, and in recent days it’s been heart warming to see Columbians vote into power Francia Márquez, a Black single mother of two, a former domestic worker, a community organiser, and an activist who previously won the Goldman Environmental Prize for stopping illegal gold mining on ancestral Afro-Columbian land.
Globally, feminists have been advancing progressive human rights reform, while resisting the coordinated and well funded work of far-right governments and civil society organisations.
To resist the growing strength of the far Right, the movements that most challenge them – feminist social justice movements led by Black, Indigenous and other people of color – must be well resourced. This requires fair and equitable systems of taxation first and foremost. And it also means a return to the original roots of the word ‘philanthropy’ – a love for humanity. This goes far beyond the practice of redistributing a few crumbs in exchange for tax breaks. It means giving significant resources to historically marginalized communities and trusting them to do what is best for their communities.
Donors who want to advance social change need to fund these movements with the kind of resources that will enable them not only to hold the line, but to turn the tide towards recognition and respect of the innate human rights of everyone. High net-worth individuals have a particular role to play here.
As powerfully exemplified by Mackenzie Scott, wealthy individuals can be effective social change agents by funding meaningfully, and without restriction – which is what feminist movements have long advocated for.
Our organisation Shake the Table and the Bridgespan Group recently conducted research that found feminist social justice movements require a miminim of $6bn by 2026 to advance desperately needed social change.
In the US, this is money that can be unlocked to resist the hundreds of state-level bills attacking LGBTQ communities, for instance. And around the world, it can advance agro ecology, the preservation of seeds and climate resilience – work that is being led by movements of rural women across the African continent.
With bold support, feminist movements will move us towards more just societies that work for all.
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